Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who wanted to know more about male and female pubic hair removal practices:
“When did it become common for each gender to begin shaving their pubic hair? I think it started with women, but now it seems just as common among men.”
You’re right that pubic hair removal started with the ladies. In fact, this is something that women appear to have been doing for a very long time. Believe it or not, female pubic hair grooming actually dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks ! However, it is important to note that there has been significant variability across different historical periods and cultures in the extent to which women have practiced this.
In contrast, pubic hair removal among men appears to be a fairly recent phenomenon. At least in the Western world, male body hair in general has traditionally been seen as a sign of masculinity. It has only been in the last few decades that we’ve seen a shift in the “ideal” male body image presented in the media to one that has relatively little hair . As men increasingly conformed to this new norm and started shaving their chests, backs, and shoulders, they eventually started taking the razor lower and lower and, hence, “manscaping” was born.
So is pubic hair removal “just as common” for men as it is for women? Let's take a look at the data.
If we consider the ladies first, a recent internet survey of 2,451 women (87% heterosexual) found that about 68% of women aged 18-40 reported removing at least some of their pubic hair in the last month . In general, rates of pubic hair removal were pretty similar for heterosexual and lesbian women in this study.
As for the men, let’s consider a separate online survey of 334 men (68% heterosexual) aged 18-50 . This study revealed that 82% of gay men and 66% of heterosexual men reported removing their pubic hair at least once before. These numbers aren’t completely comparable to the female numbers because the survey questions were a little different (i.e., “Have you ever done it?” vs. "Have you done it in the last month?"), but they do suggest that pubic hair removal is something men and women are both very likely to have tried.
That said, women appear to be removing their pubic hair a bit more frequently than men. Whereas most of the women reported removing their pubic hair at least once in the last month, when men were asked how often they do it, most reported that they removed their pubic hair only rarely or occasionally.
Both of these studies revealed that the most common method of pubic hair removal is the same for men and women: shaving. Far fewer opt for waxing, electrolysis, or laser treatments. On a side note, I should clarify that “pubic hair removal” does not always mean getting rid of all hair—it can also mean trimming. I would hypothesize that men are probably more likely to trim than shave their hair completely, whereas women are perhaps more likely to shave than trim; however, the existing research asking about pubic hair "removal" too broadly to address this.
It is worth mentioning that men and women tend to remove their pubic hair for similar reasons, with the most common reason being that they personally feel more attractive with less hair or believe that this will make them more attractive to others. However, there is a lot of variability in why people remove their pubic hair. For instance, some women do it because having less hair makes them feel more feminine, while some guys do it because they think it makes their penises look bigger.
In short, although pubic hair removal started with women, men appear to catching up. However, keep in mind that pubic hair removal is a diverse practice—people remove their pubic hair in different amounts at different frequencies and for a variety of reasons.
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 Kilmer, M. (1982). Genital phobia and depilation. Journal of Hellenic Studies, 102, 104–112.
 Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M., & Churchett, L. (2008). Hair today, gone tomorrow: A comparison of body hair removal practices in gay and heterosexual men. Body Image, 5, 312-316.
 Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Reece, M., Sanders, S., & Fortenberry, J. D. (2010). Pubic hair removal among women in the United States: Prevalence, methods, and characteristics. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, 3322-3330.
Image Source: iStockphoto.com
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